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  1. #1
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Climbing the steepest streets in San Francisco on a folding bike

    I took a trip to San Francisco yesterday in a rental car, so that meant taking my collapsible road bike-a Bike Friday Pocket Companion. It is sold as a touring bike, but I bought it for the low climbing gears. It has a triple, and I replaced the stock 30t small chainring with a 24t, which gives me a 16 inch low gear.

    Thanks to a cyclist on another forum, I got a list of the steepest streets in The City. Because of limited daylight, I decided to start with all the steepest climbs in the Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Pacific Heights areas.

    I started with Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth, a 31.5% grade. This is where I discovered that my waterbottle needed to be on the frame-mounted bottle cage, not the handlebar-mounted one. It kept poking me in the chest because I had to lean over so much.

    Next was Jones between Filbert and Union, a 29% grade. After that was Jones between Union and Green, a 26% grade. Then a ride down Broadway and up some more lesser hills before the next steep street-Webster between Broadway and Vallejo (26%). Next was Fillmore between Broadway and Vallejo at 24%.

    The next hill is where I met my match. Broderick between Broadway and Vallejo is a 38% grade. It is so steep there is no road, just a sidewalk on the left side of the street (facing uphill).

    I made it halfway up on my first attempt, then ran out of steam. Same thing 4 tries later, each time making less progress than the time before. By then it was dark and I decided to go back to Nob Hill and climb the last hill of the day, Jones between Pine and California (24.8%). Typical of the last hard climb of a ride, this one hurt near the top. Good stuff!

    My HR hit 202 on this ride. I saw it hit 200 at the top of the only climb where I remembered to look at the Garmin.

    http://connect.garmin.com/activity/130582283#

    I brought my GoPro with me and mounted it on the handlebars. There's no way my helmet-mounted ContourHD would have produced good footage with this ride. I had my head down for most of the climbs, so you would have had a lovely view of the pavement.

    I only had to use my lowest gear on Broderick. I did the second attempt in second gear, but all the rest were in the lowest gear.

    Here's the video. I left out the last climb up Jones because, like the ContourHD, the GoPro sucks at night video. You can see for yourself on the last attempt up Broderick.

    Be forewarned, the intensity of these efforts is very audible at times, so keep this in mind if you have anyone within earshot while watching this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbc5iG3M1q0


    Here's some pics.

    Bottom of Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth


    Top of Filbert


    Bottom of Jones between Union and Filbert


    Top of Jones between Union and Filbert


    Fillmore between Vallejo and Broadway


    Webster between Vallejo and Broadway


    Top of Broderick between Broadway and Vallejo


    Bottom of Broderick


    Top of Jones between California and Pine

  2. #2
    moth -----> flame Beaker's Avatar
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    Kudos next time you should stop off in Berkeley and top it off with Marin Ave.

  3. #3
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Thanks! Marin Ave. is definitely on my to-do list for a future trip. Also, a cyclist on another forum posted this new, revised list of SF's steepest streets. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me!

  4. #4
    moth -----> flame Beaker's Avatar
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    Although the list of steepest streets in SF always seems to vary, this little film is a legend. Enjoy!

    http://www.russianhillroulette.com/download.html

  5. #5
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    That was the second climbing video I saved to my hard drive when I got back into climbing rides again. I watched it before and after my climbs yesterday, and I am in awe of his almost effortless speed up those climbs!

    I also watched this guy's Fargo Street climb video before and after my climb. Fargo Street is a 33% street in LA. Like all my climbing videos, his is raw footage so you get the full experience of the effort and intensity of climbing such a steep grade.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jer7KsZQApo

  6. #6
    Idealistic Troublemaker bjorke's Avatar
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    Great stuff! I've gone up the western side of Filbert/Hyde just once, thinking it would be the easiest route from Rapha's Filbert store over to downtown before turning south for my ride down to Santa Clara (oops). The descent toward Leavenworth was... special You had quite a day attacking so many!

    One thing I noticed was while I was pausing at Hyde, I saw two other individual riders slowly approach and start the climb... a real magnet I guess!
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  7. #7
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Yeah, those super-steep descents were interesting. Not really scary though, as I just hung my butt behind the saddle to put more weight over the rear wheel. I also made sure not to apply too much front brake. On the 38% Broderick St. though, my rear tire was skidding all the way down. Not continuously, but it would skid for a fraction of a second, then roll, skid, roll all the way to the bottom.

    I didn't see anyone attempt these on a bike yesterday. Too bad, because that would have been neat to see others climb these hills too!

  8. #8
    Senior Member AndreyT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by freighttraininguphill View Post
    I also watched this guy's Fargo Street climb video before and after my climb. Fargo Street is a 33% street in LA. Like all my climbing videos, his is raw footage so you get the full experience of the effort and intensity of climbing such a steep grade.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jer7KsZQApo
    Well, yeah, but in this LA video this guy zigzags a lot, which puts it in a completely different category. Once one starts zigzagging, it is no longer a 33% climb. Depending on the specific zigzagging trajectory, a 33% grade can be easily turned into a kindergarten-level 5% grade (on average) or less. It is a simple trade-off between the effective grade and the distance.

    In your video you appear to make a point of taking the climbs head-on: no zigzagging whatsoever, the full grade is working against you. That is indeed pretty impressive.

  9. #9
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndreyT View Post
    Well, yeah, but in this LA video this guy zigzags a lot, which puts it in a completely different category. Once one starts zigzagging, it is no longer a 33% climb. Depending on the specific zigzagging trajectory, a 33% grade can be easily turned into a kindergarten-level 5% grade (on average) or less. It is a simple trade-off between the effective grade and the distance.

    In your video you appear to make a point of taking the climbs head-on: no zigzagging whatsoever, the full grade is working against you. That is indeed pretty impressive.
    He probably has standard road bike gearing, which gives him no choice but to zig-zag. I put mtb gearing on all bikes that I use for climbing, so that allows me to climb in the saddle more, and avoid having to zig-zag. However, that Broderick climb would have been one I would have zig-zagged after the first failed effort if it had an actual road. That sidewalk wasn't wide enough to switchback the climb.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Philipaparker's Avatar
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    Ok after that workout you can go ahead and skip the annual physical this year.
    To me the life is a glass half full, I love optimism, life's better that way.
    Riding the streets of San Francisco, the roads of West Marin and Northern California...

  11. #11
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philipaparker View Post
    Ok after that workout you can go ahead and skip the annual physical this year.
    LOL! I do feel slight soreness in the climbing muscles after that one, so I can't wait until the weekend so I can see if my climbing's improved any.

    For a slightly different perspective, here's the footage from the ContourHD helmet cam. I didn't look down as much as I thought I did, so I figured it was worth putting on Contour's video site with the rest of my ContourHD vids. You can hear a descending cyclist skidding down the 26% section of Jones between Union and Green on this one. On the GoPro video it sounded like I was applying my brakes while climbing!

    It won't embed even using Contour's embed code, so you have to click on the URL.

    http://contour.com/stories/climbing-...-bike-11-23-11

  12. #12
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    I rode up a bunch of hills in SF yesterday trying to burn off some calories. I made it up Broderick with a low of 34x26. I'm glad the upper section has grooves in it to help with traction. 600 watts for 5 mph with the chain feeling like it would snap at any second. Over by Coit Tower I rode to a dead end then had to carry the bike up 200 brick steps to get to street.

    http://app.strava.com/rides/2469686

    Top of Stanyon, 30 something %. The lower portion looks tame at 15-16%


    Jones


    Attempting to show grade of hill

  13. #13
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostic View Post
    I made it up Broderick with a low of 34x26. I'm glad the upper section has grooves in it to help with traction. 600 watts for 5 mph with the chain feeling like it would snap at any second.
    Video or it didn't happen! Raw, of course! We need the full experience of that effort.

  14. #14
    Idealistic Troublemaker bjorke's Avatar
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    from cyclicious a few years back
    My Cycling Log: http://www.endomondo.com/profile/202754 BikeForums Cycling Team on Endomondo: http://www.endomondo.com/teams/1747411

  15. #15
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Oops! I wouldn't want that tow bill!

  16. #16
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    This post has given me impetus to visit those hills of SF again. It's a short but good high intensity thing to do between the rains.

  17. #17
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostic View Post
    I rode up a bunch of hills in SF yesterday trying to burn off some calories. I made it up Broderick with a low of 34x26. I'm glad the upper section has grooves in it to help with traction. 600 watts for 5 mph with the chain feeling like it would snap at any second. Over by Coit Tower I rode to a dead end then had to carry the bike up 200 brick steps to get to street.

    http://app.strava.com/rides/2469686
    OK, I caught hell from a bunch of people on another forum for doubting your claim of climbing Broderick in a 34x26, since I couldn't see the relevant data for Broderick on the Strava page you linked to.

    I'll be honest. I don't believe everything I read on the internet, and since I wasn't familiar with your posts, I didn't know what to think. I figured you were either super-fit, or exaggerating like so many in the "41" like to do.

    The posters on the other forum "educated" me about your background, so now I know you actually did climb it in that gear combination. My apologies.

  18. #18
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    Broderick Rules!

    Bummer! Try starting your day fresh with Broderick. I'll bet it is a hill you can climb. I am not the die hard you are. If I stop for a quick break, I just go the rest of the way up from that point. The Santee driveway is slightly steeper (over 40%) and longer, but I zig zag pretty near all the way up. You did some great climbing. Fargo was impressively done. Every climb of yours is impressive. SF is like Dictionary Hill in Spring Valley - without Broderick that is. Maria Ave at 32.5% is the steepest for the 200 foot run with a 65 foot rise concrete section north of Chestnut. I zig zag up that one too. The rest of the streets are between 20% and 30%. You should do the San Diego area too! There are many SF type hills besides Dictionary. There is also that monster climb from the apartment complex on Graves up to Sky Ranch on Rattlesnake Mountain in Santee. On the second switchback the inside of the curve is a bikebreaker (literally; I broke my bike on that stretch 3 times). I've never come close to doing it in one pass. I usually stop at the first switchback or just before it. The switchbacks are also quite steep - perhaps just under 30%, so I stop at the curve on both or at least right before hitting the steepest part (it's got to top 45% for a yard or two) on the second one. Restarting without zigzaging is pretty close to impossible. Anyway, on the top section I may stop again, although I have done that in one bound once or twice. Did you at least finish the climb up Broderick? Your 5 tries would have exceeded the full length, but to finish the climb would have been more gratifying to me than starting over for another try. Great riding!

  19. #19
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    On Broderick, it was impossible to get going again on such a steep incline. It was also impossible to get back on the bike to ride back downhill, so I had to walk downhill and start over every time.

    I didn't climb Fargo Street in LA. That video was from a male rider who lives down there. He is much stronger than me, judging by his other ride videos. I have a feeling he could make it up Broderick no problem.

    I've never been to San Diego or the part of LA where Fargo Street is, but if I ever go down there I will seek out those steep streets you mention.

    What makes Broderick so hard is the fact that there is no room to zig-zag. As can be seen from the pictures and video I posted in my OP, the wide sidewalk narrows partway up, so I could only do some half-assed zig-zagging at the beginning, not later on when I really could have used the help.

  20. #20
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    I missed that post by Bostic, yes, I'm sure he can do it. Maybe that taxi777 man can too.

  21. #21
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    I'm guessing both these posters live in the Bay Area, as I'm not familiar with either one of them. I spend 99% of my climbing ride time in the Sierra foothills and mountains. I've met JoelS, and I'm familiar with the posts by VaultGuru and maybe a couple others who live closer to me.

  22. #22
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    Here is a screen shot from that segment on Strava. Last time I did the climb was on my triple equipped bike in 30x26, about 30 gear inches. This time I had my new Pedal Force CG2 bike with a Sram Red compact. This bike is not super light but I managed to get it under 16lbs with a Power tap rear wheel. You can see how I start zig zagging on the sidewalk a bit near the top based on the power graph as it spikes and lowers until I am about at the top and just give it whatever cookies I have left in the jar. I'm 5' 7", around the 140's in weight right now.


  23. #23
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    We have quite a few 25+% rollers in our hood (Potrero) in case ever over here...this one is sort of fun, it's relatively short and pretty steep but cobbled the whole way. Makes for an interesting climb...

  24. #24
    Loves to suffer freighttraininguphill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostic View Post
    Here is a screen shot from that segment on Strava. Last time I did the climb was on my triple equipped bike in 30x26, about 30 gear inches. This time I had my new Pedal Force CG2 bike with a Sram Red compact. This bike is not super light but I managed to get it under 16lbs with a Power tap rear wheel. You can see how I start zig zagging on the sidewalk a bit near the top based on the power graph as it spikes and lowers until I am about at the top and just give it whatever cookies I have left in the jar. I'm 5' 7", around the 140's in weight right now.

    That's what I was looking for in your OP. I couldn't find it on the Strava page, probably because I'm not a member. Good work!

    My bike is probably around 30 lbs. Last time I dared to weigh myself I was around 145 lbs, but I've been afraid to weigh myself lately because I think I may have gained weight. I'm a 5' 4" female, so 145 is 20 pounds too much for my height.

    Next time I attempt Broderick I won't save it for the end of a ride full of climbs. Where else but San Francisco can you climb 2,257' in 11.22 miles?

    Quote Originally Posted by c0lnago View Post
    We have quite a few 25+% rollers in our hood (Potrero) in case ever over here...this one is sort of fun, it's relatively short and pretty steep but cobbled the whole way. Makes for an interesting climb...
    I'll be riding that one on a future trip. Next time I'm down there I need to do 22nd St, the steep sections of Duboce, and a bunch of others. If that climb is in the neighborhood I'll do it too.

  25. #25
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    Kudos for riding those hills on a 30lb bike! I grew up in SF so most of the hills were in my stomping grounds. My bike in 1991 was a Trek Antelope 820 with 48/38/28 12-28 7 speed entry level mountain bike that was 28lbs. Going from that to a Trek 2100 carbon/alloy 22lb bike was a big difference. The gearing did limit me to constant zig zagging as the low was 39x23. My knees these days are thankful for compact and triple cranksets.

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